PH-China first meeting on West PH Sea set Friday

Aleta Nieva-Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 17 2017 12:41 PM | Updated as of May 17 2017 06:33 PM

Johnson Reef. Photo Credit: CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative / DigitalGlobe

MANILA - The Philippines and China will hold their first meeting on the West Philippine Sea dispute on Friday.

Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM) will be held in Guiyang, China.

"We will discuss areas where we have differences and try to understand each other's position and try to explore ways of managing it or further easing the tensions in the South China Sea in order to prevent escalation or any possible confrontation or conflict or misunderstanding," Sta. Romana explained.

The BCM, he said, will also be a venue to increase mutual trust and confidence and to find possible areas of cooperation. 

"But the basic approach is really to manage the disputes and to be able to discuss in a frank and friendly way the developments in the South China Sea," he said.

He revealed that both sides have agreed to hold the meetings at least twice a year or more often in case the need arises.

Sta. Romana was entrusted by both acting DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo and newly-confirmed DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to lead the Philippine delegation for the inaugural meeting on Friday.

He will be flying to Guiyang on Thursday.

"There will be a group of experts from the DFA who will be part of the delegation," he said.
 
He, however, declined to divulge the talking points of the Philippines but added it is still being finalized.

"As I've said, expect this to be the inaugural--going through the terms of reference, finalizing it, coming up with the agenda, reviewing the situation in broad terms," he said.

The ambassador also expressed optimism with the mechanism.

"The essence of bilateral talks is that you're able to raise issues of concerns to you to the other side not through megaphone diplomacy but through frank and friendly dialogue," he said.

He admitted that finding a resolution takes time.

"This is a significant first step in what could be a long journey but the point is that now we can at least sit down and talk.

"Whatever were going to present on Friday will be in line with the president's directive: to find a peaceful and diplomatic approach to resolve the issues, so as to resolve peace and stability and to further improve bilateral relations and to avoid confrontations, violence that would lead to nobody's benefit."